In August, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service proposed an amendment to the USDA organic regulations to target fraud. 

Citing cases of organic grain and oilseed fraud at both the production and handling levels, the proposed Strengthening Organic Enforcement rule is intended to “strengthen organic control systems, improve organic import oversight, clarify organic certification standards and enhance supply chain traceability.”

The Northwest Horticultural Council’s organic subcommittee met in August to review the proposed rule and will submit written comments by the Oct. 5 deadline. 

“By and large, we were pleasantly surprised with the way the new rule really provided a lot of clarity for a lot of things that weren’t clear before,” said David Epstein, NHC’s vice president for scientific affairs.

While he isn’t aware of any investigations of fraud in the Pacific Northwest tree fruit industry, Epstein said that doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen. “You can find it pretty much anywhere. I’ve seen it at farmers markets,” he said. “Any time someone has a chance to make an extra nickel, there’s the possibility for fraud.”

—by Jonelle Mejica